Eddie, we’re glad you’re back

Eddie returns from a slumber and comments on the Iranian hostage taking and civil-military relations, ending with:

A similar attitude may be hard to envision in America, but the lack of faith in public officials and the nation as a whole is alarming, to a degree that it could be reasonable to compare it only slightly favorably to the Vietnam debacle and the “malaise” diagnosis of Jimmy Carter. Adam Elkus notes that 1/3 of Americans suspect ulterior motives behind 9/11, prominently USG support and/or acquiescence.  Scandal after scandal in Washington from the compounding disgrace of Katrina to pressuring US attorneys to pursue partisan political charges against the opposition only make this “crisis of confidence” more acute.  Again, like the British, Americans are not innocent here; much of this has gone on with their rudimentary knowledge (from torture to flawed intelligence) and they can no longer reasonably claim to have been “misled.”  

Yet in spite of all this, the prospect of military personnel held hostage by a foreign power raises the reasonable specter of enraged Americans across the partisan divide demanding action (even some of those who don’t buy the official line on 9/11).  

Unless….  The military’s halo of truth, honor and courage is long due to be removed regardless.  Public worship of the military is incorrectly placed and certainly emboldens the political and institutional failure to punish disastrously poor leadership from the likes of General Tommy Franks, Ricardo Sanchez, Peter Pace, George Casey and others.  It prevents hard questions about tactics, direction and accountability to be asked in any meaningful fashion. 

The continuing use of abuse and torture by US forces or their private proxies, the fatalistic acceptance of ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the constant lying to the American people for the past 4 years (marching up to Capitol Hill and other public platforms on a routine basis and claiming ”we’re winning”) and the propensity to “support the troops at any costs” are helping to rot the core of the US Army, just as much as extended, repeated deployments. 

In due time, it is likely that political operatives will begin to use military leaders and by extension, the military itself, as scapegoats for the failing wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.  That’s strike one.  Strike Two will be drastic public disillusionment after the likely failure of the “Surge”.  Strike Three is a nightmare in itself; the kidnap, torture and execution of American soldiers in Iraq.  Insurgents have been trying this for years now, but their chances for success have to be increasing with the vulnerability of lightly manned outposts emphasized by the military in Baghdad.  The propaganda effects of such a tragedy are almost too terrible to imagine, but its reasonable to expect that after years of failure the American people will turn even further against the war.  Even if Strike Three were not to unfold, the negative light fostered by Strike One & the disgrace of Strike Two are alone enough to scuttle the love affair with the military. If and when American troops are captured by Iranians or another nation, it is thus likely a casual indifference like in Britain could ensue or worse, a desperate public push to “bring them home” at whatever costs.

Fixing the frayed bonds between society, the military and the government will require a full, honest effort from all sides.  Nothing less than the continued ability to pursue national policies and goals on a sustainable level abroad and at home is at stake. 

One thought on “Eddie, we’re glad you’re back

  1. Thank you for the link.I love the criticism of sailors in Britain now, how their lack of adequate training for such a situation is their fault, let alone how they can be found “responsible” for disgracing their service or their country without the full details of the (potential) untold nightmares they faced in captivity having been released yet.
    Such scattershot criticism is endemic of a society that (a) doesn’t respect its military and (b) has only itself and its leaders on both sides of the divide (civ-mil) to blame for allowing such a chasm of contempt and disgust to build up over the past few years.
    (FP Cook’s “moral” foreign policy scandal, Blair’s hype of WMD, unease over Kosovo, etc.)

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